Protection for Agribusiness Labour

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Protection for Agribusiness Labour

The South Australian Government is drafting a new bill to regulate labour hire in the state. The core of the proposed law is a state-wide licencing scheme. Employers would be required to be licenced, with licencing requiring meeting a proper person standard and reporting annually on internal employment figures. The Government has also recognised the inadequate enforcement of labour laws more broadly across Australia. The new legislation will compel businesses to pay a fee to assisting in funding the regulator.

Last year, the Victorian Government released the Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work. At a fundamental level, the Inquiry found that inadequate baseline data informing decision-making around the nature of labour hire limited the capacity to make positive change. Further, the Inquiry recommended that Victoria advocate for a sector-specific labour hire licencing scheme before the Council of Australian Governments. The Inquiry also noted enforcement, with specific attention to underpayment/non-payment of employees in horticulture and meat industries, should be a focus of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Australian Government has funded the Fair Farms Initiative until 2020, which is a project that seeks to assess current employment practices, market recognition for ethical employers and provide information for employers and employees. The Northern Australia White Paper (2015) and the recent Productivity Commission Report on the Regulation of Agriculture both recognised the gaps in Australian labour law in primary industries.

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